22 September 2007

The toast of Spain

I recently came across an article about Hollywood's acceptance of Hispanic actors, and it hinted that Hollywood was more favorable to other exotic imports, such as Dietrich. While I wouldn't argue that point, I did find fault in the article's reference to Dietrich. Was Dietrich a MEXICAN fortuneteller in Touch of Evil? I don't quite recall. I assumed her character was Roma (Gypsy).

Also, considering Dietrich's accent without considering Josef von Sternberg's entire body of work ignores Sternberg's tendency to eschew accuracy for aestheticism or humor. Based on the Pierre Louys novel, Le femme et le pantin, The Devil Is a Woman is a portrayal of a frivolous man-eater, with Spain as a pretty backdrop. It isn't much about Spain at all. In fact, do any of the characters have a Spanish accent in The Devil is a Woman? No! Dropping Dietrich's name only serves to attract more readers to this article. Sternberg, in fact, was profiting off audiences' Iberian illusions with The Devil Is a Woman. Actually, he intended to call the film La Caprice Espagnole. Let's examine this title for a moment. First, he's dropping Spain's name. After all, the exotic image of a foreign country attracts viewers. Second, the title is in FRENCH, not Spanish. Why? There's really no asking with Sternberg. Part of what amuses me when I watch Sternberg's films is this detachment from the characters and their environment. Listen to and laugh at Louise Dresser's corn-husker drawl as she plays a Russian empress in The Scarlet Empress. It's ridiculous! That's why it's funny.